After four straight NCAA tournament appearances, including a No. 1 seed, two Sweet-16 appearances and a remarkable run to the 2013 Final Four, Wichita State is far from a lock to make the field of 68.
Saturday’s 80-76 overtime loss at Seton Hall is not a stain on its resume, but it was the last chance to notch a quality win out of conference. After losses to USC, Alabama and Iowa over Thanksgiving weekend, the Shockers may need to rely on the automatic bid as Missouri Valley Conference tournament champions to make the NCAA tournament.
Fred VanVleet’s return brought the Shockers back into top form and three-straight wins, culminating with a victory against Utah. Wichita State was sending a message to the committee: judge us on how we are now, finally healthy, not the team that dropped four of its first six. That argument would have been much stronger if the Shockers continued their winning ways through December and into conference play. Now, the margin for error is even thinner for Gregg Marshall’s team.
Anton Grady returned, and though he did not have a huge impact on the game it was good to see him back on the floor after his scary injury at the beginning of the season. As Grady gets back into the rotation and the schedule lightens up, the losing will become less frequent and there is no question that Wichita State is going to be the favorite to win the league, but the point remains that an NCAA tournament bid is not going to promised without that MVC tournament win.
Seton Hall improves to 9-2 and notches an all-important quality non-conference win. Kevin Willard’s group has been in every game, only losing to George Washington and Long Beach State, is led by a talented group of sophomores in Isaiah Whitehead, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado. The group plays well together and will probably knock off some favorites in Big East play.